A true ragu takes time, and time is something in short supply at the start of the new school year.
So I decided to come up with a version that takes the time out of this family-friendly classic, but leaves all the deep, rich flavours we want from a sauce as we head into fall. The trick is to start with a tender cut of beef—in this case sirloin tips—and finely chop it. It then gets only a quick sear and is added to an already rich tomato-based sauce.
The whole thing comes together in about 40 minutes. I like to serve it over cheese tortellini, but any pasta would be great. Just don’t forget the gobs of Parmesan on top.
Weeknight beef ragu with pasta
Start to finish: 40 minutes
• 2 pounds sirloin beef tips, cut into 1-inch chunks
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 small yellow onion, diced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 oil-packed anchovies, mashed with a fork
• 6-ounce can tomato paste
• 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 1 cup red wine
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 1 pound cooked pasta
• Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Arrange the sirloin chunks in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and butter. Add the onion, garlic and anchovies and saute until the onions are tender and the anchovies have broken down, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to darken, about another 5 minutes.
Add the cherry tomatoes and vinegar, then stir well and simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 10 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, remove the chilled beef from the freezer. Place it in a food processor, working in batches so as to avoiding overcrowding the bowl, and pulse just until well chopped, but not ground.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the beef and sear, stirring occasionally, just until light browned, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine to the pan to deglaze, stirring to remove any bits from the bottom. Immediately transfer the beef and any liquid in the pan to the saucepan with the tomato sauce. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve the sauce over pasta and top with Parmesan.
Nutrition information per serving: 760 calories; 250 calories from fat (33 per cent of total calories); 28 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 130 mg cholesterol; 68 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 52 g protein; 910 mg sodium.